Shadab Ali was making normal calls to home in Kashmir amid sabre-rattling and massive troop buildup against the country he calls his overseas campus.
But not anymore!
Like other Kashmiri students, Shadab got earlier stranded in Ukraine due to soared flights. The upcoming exams equally delayed his departure before Vladimir Putin ordered the military action against Kyiv.
“There is a growing sense of uncertainty among all of us right now,” Shadab, a third-year MBBS student of Kharkiv National Medical University, told The Himalayan Post over phone from Ukraine.
“Due to our lived experience in the conflict zone, we weren’t bothered much about the unfolding situation before explosions created electricity issues around.”
As the situation is fast snowballing into the full-blown crisis, the Indian Embassy has started evacuation flights. Before the official rescue plan, the exorbitant charters and flights had grounded Kashmiri students in different parts of Ukraine.
“Even as the Indian Embassy had earlier asked students to come back, we couldn’t leave the country due to unaffordable flights,” Imtiyaz Tantary, 23, told The Himalayan Post.
“A routine Ukraine-India flight would cost us Rs 25000, but the same soared to Rs 90,000 in the last ten days. Most of us belong to middle-class families and couldn’t afford this temporary evacuation.”
These Kashmiri students were also waiting for an official notice to leave the country, said Mohammad Barkheez, a 22-year-old MBBS student.
“While it never came, the sudden escalation has now closed all the airports,” he rued.
“The conflict which was intensifying in hinterlands has now reached the heartland.”
But as of now, said noted Kashmiri student activist Nasir Khuehami, no SOS or distressed dispatch has been received from Ukraine.
“We have asked students to approach us if they face any problem,” Nasir told The Himalayan Post.
“But so far, none has approached us for any help. If the students bring such issues into our consideration, we will write to LG or Central administration.”
Amid the bombs and blitz, Imtiyaz, the student quoted above, said the university had announced online classes for those who wanted to go back to their countries.
“But now, even they can’t leave due to blocked exit points,” he said.
“We were extending our stay as the university authorities weren’t making our departure official.”
The situation is very uncertain as powers like Russia, US and NATO are involved in Ukraine, said Saqlain Ali Bhat.
“There was no sense of fear or war among the locals which also gave us strong assurances to stay till now,” Saqlain, a 24-year-old fourth year student, told The Himalayan Post.
“But all this has changed now. The war has already begun!”